How to identify innovation opportunities using Job Map?


In the rapidly evolving landscape of business and innovation, understanding the needs and behaviors of customers is paramount. Among the luminaries in the field of innovation strategy, Tony Ulwick’s Job Map framework decomposes the process a customer goes through to accomplish a job into discrete steps, providing a clear path to identify unmet needs and areas ripe for innovation. This blog post aims to demystify the Job Map framework and guide readers on leveraging it to uncover robust innovation opportunities. By the end, you’ll have a solid understanding of how to apply this framework to not only meet but exceed your customers’ expectations.

Understanding the Job Map Framework

At the heart of Tony Ulwick’s innovation strategy is the concept of the “job” – a term that extends beyond mere tasks to encompass any objective a customer is trying to achieve. The Job Map framework breaks down these objectives into eight universal steps, presenting a holistic view of the customer’s endeavor from start to finish. These steps are:

  1. Define: Determining goals and planning resources to do a job.
  2. Locate: Gathering items and information to do the job.
  3. Prepare: Setting up or getting ready to perform the job.
  4. Confirm: Ensuring everything is correct and in place to do the job.
  5. Execute: Carrying out the job.
  6. Monitor: Assessing the progress of the job.
  7. Modify: Making adjustments to improve outcomes.
  8. Conclude: Completing and reflecting on the job outcome.

This structured approach enables companies to dissect complex customer jobs into manageable segments, providing a comprehensive view that often reveals overlooked opportunities for innovation.

The Importance of Jobs-to-be-Done Theory

Central to Ulwick’s framework is the Jobs-to-be-Done theory, which shifts the focus from products or customers to the underlying job the customer is trying to get done. This perspective fosters a deeper understanding of customer motivations and unmet needs, leading to more effective and targeted innovation strategies. By concentrating on the job rather than the product, companies can identify more relevant and impactful opportunities for innovation. The Job Map framework, with its detailed breakdown of the job process, serves as a practical tool for applying the Jobs-to-be-Done theory, guiding companies in their quest to innovate more precisely and successfully.

Applying the Job Map Framework to Identify Innovation Opportunities

To harness the Job Map framework effectively, follow these steps:

  1. Select a Job to Map: Choose a customer job relevant to your industry or business. For instance, in the textile industry, this could be “maintain the quality of fabric over time.”
  2. Break Down the Job: Using the Job Map, dissect the selected job into the eight universal steps. Identify what customers are trying to accomplish at each step and the challenges they face.
  3. Identify Gaps and Opportunities: Look for steps where customers experience frustration, inefficiency, or unmet needs. These are your innovation hotspots.
  4. Prioritize Opportunities: Not all gaps are worth filling. Prioritize based on the impact on the customer experience and the feasibility for your business.
  5. Ideate Solutions: Brainstorm solutions for the prioritized opportunities. Think broadly about new products, services, or improvements that could address these gaps.
  6. Validate and Iterate: Test your ideas with potential users, gather feedback, and refine your solutions.

By systematically applying the Job Map framework, companies can uncover specific, actionable opportunities for innovation that directly address the needs and challenges customers face throughout the job process.

Case Studies and Success Stories

Several companies have successfully leveraged the Job Map framework to drive innovation. For example, a consumer electronics company used it to redesign their product development process, focusing on the job of “creating a home entertainment experience.” By identifying unmet needs in the “Prepare” and “Execute” steps, the company could innovate by simplifying setup processes and enhancing user interfaces, leading to a market-leading product.

Best Practices and Common Pitfalls

When applying the Job Map framework, remember these best practices:

  • Stay Focused on the Job, Not the Solution: Avoid jumping to solutions before fully understanding the job and its steps.
  • Engage Cross-Functional Teams: Innovation benefits from diverse perspectives. Include team members from different departments.
  • Iterate Based on Feedback: Use customer feedback to refine your understanding of the job and the effectiveness of proposed solutions.

Beware of common pitfalls such as:

  • Overlooking the Emotional and Social Jobs: Jobs aren’t just functional; consider the emotional and social dimensions.
  • Ignoring the Complete Job Map: Don’t focus too narrowly on one or two steps; valuable insights might be found in less obvious areas.

Example 1: Preparing a healthy meal

Let’s delve into each of these steps with a practical example to illustrate their application in a real-world context. For this purpose, we’ll consider the job of “preparing a healthy meal” to see how each step of the Job Map can be applied.

1. Define

Description: This initial step involves recognizing the need or problem that prompts the customer to start the job.

Example: A person decides they want to start eating healthier to improve their overall wellbeing. They begin by researching what constitutes a healthy meal, considering dietary restrictions, nutritional goals, or specific health benefits they hope to achieve. Look for unmet needs of the customer for this job step, to identify innovation opportunities.

2. Locate

Description: Once the need is defined, the customer seeks out resources, tools, information, or solutions that can help them accomplish the job.

Example: The person searches for healthy recipes online, looks for stores or markets where they can buy fresh ingredients, and identifies any kitchen tools or appliances they might need. Look for unmet needs of the customer for this job step, to identify innovation opportunities.

3. Prepare

Description: This step involves getting everything ready to execute the job, such as gathering materials, setting up the environment, or making preliminary arrangements.

Example: The person buys all the necessary ingredients, ensures they have the right kitchen tools (like pots, pans, and utensils), and preps the ingredients by washing, cutting, and measuring them. Look for unmet needs of the customer for this job step, to identify innovation opportunities.

4. Confirm

Description: Before proceeding, the customer verifies that everything is correct and in place to successfully complete the job.

Example: The person double-checks the recipe to make sure they’ve prepared all ingredients correctly and have followed any specific preparation instructions. They also ensure that they have enough time to cook the meal as planned. Look for unmet needs of the customer for this job step, to identify innovation opportunities.

5. Execute

Description: This is the step where the customer actively performs the job.

Example: The person cooks the meal, following the recipe steps carefully, adjusting heat settings, and timing each component of the meal to ensure everything is cooked properly. Look for unmet needs of the customer for this job step, to identify innovation opportunities.

6. Monitor

Description: Throughout the execution phase, the customer checks the progress of the job to ensure it’s going as expected.

Example: The person tastes the food as it cooks to adjust seasoning, checks the texture of ingredients, and monitors cooking times to avoid under or overcooking.

7. Modify

Description: Based on the monitoring, the customer makes any necessary adjustments to improve the outcome.

Example: If the person finds the dish too bland, they might add more herbs and spices. If a component of the meal is cooking too quickly, they might lower the heat or remove it from the stove temporarily.

8. Conclude

Description: Once the job is completed, the customer wraps up any final tasks and evaluates the outcome.

Example: The person serves the meal, cleans up the kitchen, and reflects on the cooking process. They consider what went well and what could be improved for next time, such as adjusting the recipe or the cooking method.

Practical Application in Innovation: Understanding each step of this process reveals numerous opportunities for innovation. For example, a kitchen appliance company might identify a need for better food preparation tools that save time during the “Prepare” step or develop a smart cooking device that helps users “Monitor” and “Modify” cooking conditions automatically to ensure perfect results every time. A grocery delivery service might focus on the “Locate” step, offering a feature that suggests and delivers ingredients for healthy meals directly to the customer’s door.

By mapping out the job of preparing a healthy meal across these eight steps, businesses can pinpoint specific pain points and inefficiencies that customers face, providing a clear direction for creating value-added products, services, or improvements that directly address the customer’s needs and challenges at each stage of their journey.

Example 2: Producing high-quality denim garments

Applying Job Map framework to a denim manufacturer involves examining the end-to-end process through which a company identifies, designs, produces, and delivers a denim product to the market. This application will focus on the job of “producing high-quality denim garments,” highlighting innovation opportunities at each step of the process.

1. Define

Description: Identify the need or opportunity for a new or improved denim product.

Example: The denim manufacturer recognizes a market demand for eco-friendly denim garments that don’t sacrifice quality or durability. This involves researching market trends, customer feedback, and sustainability practices.

2. Locate

Description: Seek out materials, technologies, and information necessary to design and produce the denim product.

Example: The manufacturer searches for suppliers of sustainable raw materials such as organic cotton or recycled polyester. They also explore innovative, water-saving dyeing technologies and efficient manufacturing processes.

3. Prepare

Description: Set up the resources, equipment, and plans needed to start production.

Example: Once materials and technologies are sourced, the manufacturer prepares by calibrating machinery for water-efficient dyeing processes, training staff on sustainable manufacturing practices, and setting up quality control measures to ensure the final product meets the defined standards.

4. Confirm

Description: Verify that everything is correct and ready for the production process to begin.

Example: The manufacturer checks the quality of the raw materials, ensures that the machinery is properly set up and calibrated, and confirms that all staff are trained and aware of the new production protocols.

5. Execute

Description: Carry out the actual production of the denim garments.

Example: The production process begins, with the manufacturer closely monitoring each stage of production from weaving and dyeing to cutting and stitching, ensuring that each step adheres to the sustainability and quality standards set out in the preparation phase.

6. Monitor

Description: Continuously check the progress and quality of the denim garments during production.

Example: Quality control teams inspect the denim at various stages of production, looking for any issues in fabric quality, dye consistency, or seam strength. They monitor water and energy usage to ensure sustainability targets are being met.

7. Modify

Description: Make adjustments to the production process based on monitoring feedback to improve the product or process.

Example: If quality control identifies that a batch of fabric does not meet the durability standards, the production process may be adjusted, such as changing the fabric treatment or reinforcing the stitching technique.

8. Conclude

Description: Finish production, evaluate the process and product outcome, and prepare for distribution.

Example: Once the denim garments are produced, the manufacturer reviews the entire production cycle to assess efficiency, sustainability outcomes, and product quality. This evaluation informs adjustments for future production runs and the product is then packaged and shipped to retailers or directly to consumers.

Practical Application in Innovation: For the denim manufacturer, the Job Map framework highlights areas for innovation at each step of the production process. For instance, during the “Locate” step, the manufacturer might innovate by developing partnerships with suppliers of novel sustainable materials. In the “Execute” and “Monitor” steps, there could be an opportunity to innovate in the development of proprietary, water-saving dyeing technologies that reduce environmental impact without compromising the quality of the denim. Throughout the “Modify” step, implementing real-time analytics and feedback mechanisms could streamline adjustments, enhancing both sustainability and efficiency.

This detailed mapping enables the denim manufacturer to systematically identify and address inefficiencies, unmet market needs, and opportunities for differentiation, guiding strategic decisions that align with both business objectives and customer values.

Example 3: Purchasing Denim Jeans

Using Job Map framework from the perspective of a denim jeans wearer allows us to dissect the customer’s journey from recognizing the need for a new pair of jeans to ultimately making a purchase and using the product. This perspective can unveil key insights for manufacturers, retailers, and designers to innovate in ways that enhance the customer experience.

1. Define

Description: Recognizing the need for a new pair of jeans.

Example: A customer realizes their current jeans are worn out, no longer fit, or they need a new style for a particular occasion or season.

2. Locate

Description: Searching for jeans that meet their specific needs or desires.

Example: The customer looks for jeans online, browsing through various brands, styles, and reviews. They may also visit physical stores to explore available options.

3. Prepare

Description: Preparing to purchase, such as setting a budget, choosing the size, and selecting the style.

Example: The customer decides on a budget for their new jeans, measures themselves to ensure they choose the right size, and narrows down the style options to those that fit their personal taste and the purpose of the jeans (e.g., casual wear, work, fashion statement).

4. Confirm

Description: Verifying the choice before making a purchase, ensuring the jeans meet all their criteria.

Example: The customer checks the size guide against their measurements, reads return policies, and may look for confirmation from reviews or social media to ensure the jeans have a good reputation for quality and fit.

5. Execute

Description: Making the purchase.

Example: The customer buys the jeans either in-store or online, completing the transaction with payment and choosing shipping options if necessary.

6. Monitor

Description: Assessing the status of their purchase and anticipating its arrival.

Example: If purchased online, the customer tracks the shipping status and delivery date. They may also monitor for any communication from the retailer regarding their order.

7. Modify

Description: Making adjustments based on the initial use or fit of the jeans.

Example: Upon trying the jeans, the customer might decide to tailor them for a better fit, exchange them for a different size or style, or wash them according to specific instructions to maintain their appearance and longevity.

8. Conclude

Description: Final acceptance and integration of the jeans into regular use and evaluating satisfaction.

Example: The customer begins to wear the jeans regularly, determining whether they meet the needs for which they were purchased. They reflect on their satisfaction with the product and the purchase process, which influences their loyalty to the brand and their likelihood to recommend the jeans to others.

Practical Application in Innovation: For businesses, understanding each step of the denim jeans wearer’s journey highlights areas where innovation can significantly improve the customer experience. For example, in the “Locate” step, there’s an opportunity to innovate through AI-powered recommendation engines on e-commerce platforms, making it easier for customers to find jeans that match their style and fit preferences. During the “Prepare” and “Confirm” steps, virtual fitting rooms or augmented reality apps could help customers make more confident purchase decisions without needing to visit a store. After purchase, in the “Modify” step, offering personalized tailoring services or care products tailored to the specific denim fabric could enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

By focusing on the customer’s end-to-end journey with a product, companies can uncover unique opportunities to meet unmet needs, exceed expectations, and foster a stronger emotional connection with their brand.

Example 4: Wearing denim jeans

Adjusting the Job Map framework to focus on the specific job of “wearing denim jeans” shifts our perspective to the customer’s experience from deciding to wear the jeans through to the eventual integration of the jeans into their regular wardrobe. This nuanced approach provides insights into enhancing the user experience directly related to the product’s use.

1. Define

Description: Identifying the occasion or need for wearing denim jeans.

Example: The customer decides they need to wear jeans for a casual outing, work, or a specific event that requires a denim-based outfit.

2. Locate

Description: Choosing the right pair of jeans from their wardrobe that fits the occasion’s requirements.

Example: The customer sorts through their collection to find a pair of jeans that matches the style, comfort level, and appropriateness for the event or activity they have in mind.

3. Prepare

Description: Preparing the jeans for wear, which may include washing, ironing, or any necessary repairs.

Example: The customer checks the jeans for cleanliness and if they need ironing to remove wrinkles or making minor repairs like sewing a loose button.

4. Confirm

Description: Ensuring the jeans fit well and complement the intended look or outfit.

Example: Before finalizing their choice, the customer tries on the jeans to ensure they fit comfortably and look good with the rest of their outfit, adjusting their selection if necessary.

5. Execute

Description: Wearing the jeans to the intended event or activity.

Example: The customer wears the jeans throughout the day, engaging in activities ranging from casual outings, work, or social events that the jeans were specifically chosen for.

6. Monitor

Description: Throughout the wearing, the customer assesses comfort, fit, and appropriateness as they move through different activities.

Example: The customer pays attention to how the jeans feel during wear, noting if they become uncomfortable, restrict movement, or if the fit changes (e.g., loosens or tightens) over the course of the day.

7. Modify

Description: Making any adjustments to improve the wearing experience or address any issues that arise.

Example: The customer might roll up the cuffs for a different look or more comfort, adjust their belt, or change their activity level or posture to maintain comfort while wearing the jeans.

8. Conclude

Description: Reflecting on the overall experience of wearing the jeans and deciding on their future use.

Example: After the day is over, the customer considers whether the jeans met their needs for comfort, style, and appropriateness for the occasion. They decide whether these jeans will become a staple of their wardrobe for similar future events or if they need to look for a better-suited pair.

Practical Application in Innovation: From this perspective, manufacturers and designers can identify several opportunities to innovate and enhance the denim-wearing experience. For instance, during the “Prepare” step, developing jeans with advanced, wrinkle-free materials or self-cleaning technologies could significantly reduce prep time. Innovations in fabric technology that adjust to body movements, offering enhanced comfort and fit during the “Execute” and “Monitor” steps, could address common complaints about denim wear. Additionally, introducing smart textiles that can modify their breathability or insulation based on the wearer’s body temperature could revolutionize the “Modify” step, providing unparalleled comfort and adaptability.

By closely examining the customer’s experience of wearing denim jeans, businesses can innovate in ways that directly address user needs and preferences, leading to higher satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy for the brand.